Friday, March 9, 2012

Spinach Salad with Spicy Orange Dressing

The Lawyer and I over-endulged a little last weekend so it was time to even the scales with a nice light healthy dinner.  Although this spinach salad is light in calories and fat, it's loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants.  It has such big, bold flavors and crunchy textures that it's very satisfying as a vegetarian entree, but you can amp up the protein if you want by adding some cooked crumbled bacon, grilled chicken or shrimp, or whatever.  We chose to add a little bacon since we had some in the freezer.  With a piece of crusty bread on the side it was a filling dinner.

We happen to like spicy foods, but I was reminded that not everyone shares our tastes when I was at a bridal shower recently and one of the participants pronounced a small tea sandwich as "too spicy" because it had black olive tapenade and feta cheese.  She didn't even get as far as the peppadew garnish. ( I thought it was the best sandwich out of the lot.)  Oh well, everyone's tastes are different.  This salad is spicy but not overly so, and you can control the amount of heat by varying the amount of red pepper sauce (or leave it out entirely).  You can also leave out the red jalapeno - I liked the way it looked a a garnish but I would certainly fine slice or mince it if you intend to eat it.

There are two ingredients in this recipe that you might not be familiar with - daikon sprouts and jicama.  Daikon sprouts are like alfalfa sprouts except they're from Japanese daikon radishes, so they have a slightly spicy radish-y flavor.  I found them in the produce section next to the alfalfa sprouts.  They're worth searching out because they go so beautifully in this salad but if you can't find them you can substitute alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts.

Jicama is the other interesting ingredient.  Pronounced hi-ka-ma, it's the tuberous root of a native Mexican vine also called the Mexican Turnip.  It's not going to win any beauty contests anytime soon.

Jicama is typically peeled, cut up and eaten raw.  It has a crisp white interior (better-looking than the exterior) and a slightly sweet and starchy flavor somewhat reminiscent of a potato or an apple.

Along with the carrots and almonds, it adds great crunch to the salad in addition to a subtle sweetness. It can be found in the produce section near parsnips and turnips.  (Just tell your kids it's a fruit.)

Spinach Salad with Spicy Orange Dressing
Serves 4

1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (optional)
1 shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
6 cups washed baby spinach
1/3 cup julienned carrot
1/3 cup julienned jicama
1/3 cup daikon sprouts
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons mixture of black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds
Half a red jalapeno for garnish (optional)

For the dressing, cook the orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat until syrupy and reduced to approximately 3 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. Combine with the honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and hot sauce in a blender. Add the shallot and ginger and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator.

For the salad, mix the spinach, daikon sprouts, carrot and jicama in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat well. Garnish with almonds, sesame seeds and red jalapeno (if using).

Optional: add crumbled cooked bacon, cooked sliced chicken or pork, or cooked shrimp

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